The official blog of American Veteran Magazine, the national quarterly publication of AMVETS.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

AMVETS Testifies Before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs about H.R. 1154, the “Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs Act.”

Yesterday, was the first time I witnessed a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill. In case you've never been in a hearing room, imagine stepping back in time to the Victorian era. The room in which the hearing took place was intimidating to say the least, with extremely high ceilings painted white, with golden accents and pearl-like air vent covers. (At least they looked like pearls to me at like a million feet away)The window treatments were dramatic draperies in dark blue and white lace. There were three enormous windows that let in lots of natural light.
All set the perfect tone to get down to the business of passing H.R. 1154 into law.

H.R. 1154 was introduced by Rep. John Carter (TX) and gained overwhelming bi-partisan support since it's introduction on March 17, 2011. The bill's purpose is to give veterans utilizing Service Dogs the same access rights to VA Medical Centers and VA facilities already given to blind veterans using Guide Dogs. In March, more than 100 members of AMVETS, the sons of AMVETS and the AMVETS Women's Auxiliary stormed the Hill in an effort to let lawmakers know they were serious about the swift passage of H.R. 1154 and finally removing this hurdle to care disabled veterans are experiencing, such as AMVETS member Kevin Stone, and his Service Dog, Mambo.

AMVETS testified before the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Health, focusing their oral testimony on H.R. 1154, the "Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs Act", as well as another piece of legislation AMVETS has assisted in developing, H.R. 198, introduced by Rep. Grimm (NY).

Below is an excerpt from the oral testimony of Christina Roof, National Acting Legislative Director for AMVETS, on the two bills.

AMVETS strongly supports H.R. 1154, the “Veterans Equal Treatment for Service Dogs Act.” In 2009, I personally began to play an active role in AMVETS 30 plus years of work in the area of disabled veterans and Service Dogs. I could have never imagined that 2 ½ years later, I would be sitting here testifying on a piece of legislation that is in dire need of being signed into law and implemented without any further delay. This piece of legislation is HR 1154.

AMVETS believes this cost free piece of legislation will permanently eliminate an often overlooked and unwarranted hurdle to care disabled veterans are currently experiencing when seeking their necessary VA health care services. To date, Title 38, Part 1, § 1.218 (a)(11) states:

“Dogs and other animals, except seeing-eye dogs, shall not be brought upon property except as authorized by the head of the facility or designee”.

AMVETS finds the aforesaid language of Title 38 to be inconsistent and outdated when compared to the sections of Title 38 it is to govern. While numerous parts of Title 38 are constantly updated to reflect the health care needs of today’s wounded warriors, this section of Title 38 has been overlooked and has thus failed to be updated since July of 1985.

This outdated law is resulting in disabled veterans utilizing VA approved Service Dogs as a prosthetic device, to be denied entrance into the VAMCs and CBOCs they depend on for life sustaining care. One of the veterans who has personally experienced this barrier to care is AMVETS member, Kevin Stone and his Service Dog, Mambo, who are in attendance today.

AMVETS believes disabled veterans, such as Mr. Stone, using Service Dogs as a prosthetic device must have the same access rights to VA care and facilities as currently afforded to blind veterans using Guide Dogs.

AMVETS supports H.R. 198, the “Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act.” AMVETS lends our support to the updated language of H.R. 198 that will be submitted in committee markup. AMVETS believes the updated language will help ensure that H.R. 198 provides veterans the highest quality care and vocational training.

By way of background, AMVETS has worked with Paws With A Cause, an ADI -accredited agency, to help provide Service Dogs to disabled veterans for over 25 years. Through this partnership, AMVETS has witnessed first -hand the incredible changes that occur in a veteran’s life when introducing a dog into their overall treatment plan. These changes are often illustrated through a veteran’s ability to maintain a higher quality of life and greater mental health improvements, when compared to veterans undergoing clinical care alone. HR 198 and the dogs it will use, have the ability to break down barriers in a veteran’s world by shattering public stigmas and increase a veteran’s overall wellbeing by reigniting purpose through allowing the veterans to continue their service to their country by assisting their comrades.

AMVETS is aware of VAMCs that have used programs similar to the structure of H.R. 198 with great success for both the veteran trainers and the veteran Service Dog recipients. Furthermore, AMVETS believes H.R. 198 will be beneficial to VA by developing stronger policies and procedures regarding Service Dogs within the VA health care system. AMVETS is happy to lend our support to H.R. 198.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gearing up for Convention

Things around the AMVETS National Headquarters have been busier than ever, as we get ourselves and everything we need to bring with us together to take down to St. Louis for the AMVETS 67th Annual National Convention.

This will be my first convention, and I am looking forward to meeting all of the members out there who read the magazine and comment and respond to posts on Twitter and Facebook. I am eager to put faces to names and dive right into the mix.

I plan to take lots of pictures to post online, and cover stories that will go into the Fall issue of American Veteran magazine.

History will be made, and I am anticipating a good time to be had by all.

Hope to see you there! Only a couple weeks to go.


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Monday, July 18, 2011

National Commander Hotop's Address during the Women's Memorial Reception Dinner July 15, 2011

Let me begin by thanking the folks who thought enough of me to have me speak to you this evening. I am truly honored and humbled after visiting the Women Veterans Memorial. I would like to recognize Secretary Shinseki and those at the VA Center for Women Veterans for the outstanding work they have been doing to get our women veterans the healthcare they need and deserve. There is still much progress to be made, but I am encouraged that they are on the right track, particularly with their latest campaign of surveying women veterans to learn how to better service them. I applaud your new efforts at community outreach.

Friends and veterans, thank you for gathering here to recognize the contributions of women veterans. I know I speak for all of us here when I say you are important figures in the history of our nation – as well as important role models for our future.

The choice you made was not an easy one. You chose to place your personal needs behind the needs of your country. It takes a selfless person to do that, and I on behalf of AMVETS extend the warmest, most sincere, “Thank You,” for your service.

You are truly diverse, dynamic women who play many roles in your lives. To your families, you are Mothers, daughters, wives, aunts, sisters… And to your unit or shop, you are Gunny, Chief, or Top. You sure do wear many hats, but that’s the beauty of being a woman. I am not taking away anything from the men, because they sacrifice too, but there is a special strength with which God has blessed a woman. It’s tough to explain, and only He knows why, but you all are like chameleons. You do the work in the field alongside your brothers-in-arms without batting an eyelash. And then just that quick you can turn around to comfort your baby boy who just skinned his knee! You are respected and deserve this night of recognition. You deserve this “Thank You” for all that you do.

By celebrations such as this, we are highlighting your contributions to this great nation, and in doing so also helping to guarantee good services for the women who don the uniform in the future.

Whether you are a Soldier, Airman, Marine, Sailor or Coast Guardsmen, You are the driving force behind the American Dream. Your sacrifices in service allow us the freedoms we enjoy every day. AMVETS is committed to constantly reminding our leaders on Capitol Hill of the promises they made to you. We will continue to fight for legislation that makes life a little easier for those who serve and have served, and WILL serve in this country’s armed forces in the future.

I am pleased that not only does the VA seem committed to equality in its service, but it also intends to close the information gap about the benefits you have earned through your valiant sacrifices on behalf of our nation. AMVETS is here to help VA close that gap as well. Our service officers can help you file a claim, and educate you about the benefits to which you are entitled.

Now, I cannot, in good conscience, leave you all without extending an invitation to learn more about the fine organization that I lead. Unlike other VSOs, membership in AMVETS is open to anyone who is currently serving, or has honorably served, in the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to present, to include those in the National Guard and Reserves.

I know that VSOs have been wrongly perceived as a club for men, of sorts, and that we do not welcome women. But that is a myth that I have strived to help eradicate during my year as National Commander. AMVETS welcomes ALL, regardless of gender, race and ethnicity.

With women making up at least 15% of our military personnel today, we at AMVETS want to be sure that you, our veterans, know that you can turn to us for help. If you know a veteran, male or female, who needs help, tell them to visit, or contact our National Programs Department to learn more about our programs.

In closing, I want to say one last thank you to the women veterans here today. Even though you may not have always known it, you were moving stones and creating a path for the women who will serve after you. This nation owes you a great debt of gratitude.

Your pride in your service is a tremendous source of patriotism in our communities. I am so proud of you. You are doing great things, and I know you will continue to provide outstanding leadership in your communities. I, and every one of our 180,000 AMVETS members are here to help in any way we can.

Because you made the vow, “I will serve, too,” – our nation is stronger. I am proud to be an American.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

AMVETS, Veterans Community, Condemn DoD for Breaking Sacred Promise with POW/MIA Families

WASHINGTON (July 13, 2011) — President Obama is a strong supporter of our nation’s veterans, military and their families, as well as the families of almost 88,000 missing servicemen and civilians, yet some within his Administration do not share that same level of commitment.

They would instead disregard White House guidance and abandon a Presidential Commission that was created in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin — and supported by every American president since — to help determine the fates of Americans who disappeared behind the Iron Curtain. They would also recall a multiyear budget submission for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), whose worldwide mission to recover and identify America’s fallen is stretched thin by manning constraints and laboratory space.

After nine months of broken promises, we cannot sit quietly and allow senior officials in the Department of Defense to redirect funding, transfer researchers and linguists, and jeopardize any possibility of mission success for the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs. The Defense Department had previously agreed to reinstate by the end of June what it had taken from the Joint Commission, but to date, DOD has chosen to ignore the policy and funding recommendations made by the White House Office of Management and Budget and the National Security Council.

Such actions will negate 19 years of slow but increasingly steady progress that has permitted U.S. investigators to access Russia’s central military archives and to interview potential eyewitnesses. Such actions will also contradict a show of support by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who last month appointed a new co-chairman and more than 30 commissioners to their side of the Joint Commission.

Ongoing DOD actions will make it nearly impossible for our government to locate information and/or remains to help determine the fates of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans who may have perished in the former Soviet Union or in the lands of their allies during World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War. The Defense Department’s actions will help ensure mission failure, which will render the Joint Commission expendable, all because DOD wants to control a Presidential Commission instead of strongly supporting it.

We also cannot acquiesce to a relook of JPAC’s budget, which in these austere fiscal times means reduced funding. Congress has mandated that JPAC begin recovering and identifying 200 or more MIAs annually by 2015. This is more than double their current success rate, and without increased funding, it will be an impossible goal to reach.

When President Obama spoke at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, he reminded us of the debt America and the entire world owes to our military — for their benevolence as well as their resolve. He honored the memory, service and sacrifice of those men and women who gave their all, and he offered assurances to thousands of Americans who continue to seek answers — the families of almost 78,000 missing and unaccounted-for from World War II, 8,000 from Korea, 1,680 from Vietnam, and one each from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the countless veterans who served by their side.

Our nation’s fullest possible accounting mission is a national priority that the president is committed to, a mission that other nations wish they could emulate, and a mission in which success can only be measured by recovering, identifying, and returning those we send to war back to their families and to their country.

On behalf of millions of members of our nation’s largest, oldest, and most influential veterans and POW/MIA family organizations, we call upon President Obama to immediately direct DOD to restore funding and personnel to the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission, and to protect JPAC’s proposed budgets. We also urge our fellow veterans and their families, as well as all Americans, to contact the president and their members of Congress to urge them to live up to our nation’s sacred obligation to never leave a service member behind.


James B. King, National Executive Director, American Veterans
Barry A. Jesinoski, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans
Herb Rosenbleeth, Col., USA-Ret., Executive Director, Jewish War Veterans of the USA
Michael A. Blum, Executive Director, Marine Corps League
Ann Mills-Griffiths, Executive Director, National League of POW/MIA Families
Peter S. Gaytan, Executive Director, The American Legion
Robert E. Wallace, Executive Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.
Richard F. Weidman, Executive Director for Policy & Government Affairs Vietnam Veterans of America

Contact information:
AMVETS, Jay Agg, 301-683-4035; DAV, Thom Wilborn, 202-314-5221; Jewish War Veterans, Herb Rosenbleeth, 202-265-6280; Marine Corps League, Mike Blum, 703-207-9588; National League of POW/MIA Families, Ann Mills-Griffiths, 703-465-7432; The American Legion, Craig Roberts, 202-263-2982; VFW, Joe Davis, 202-608-8357; and Vietnam Veterans of America, Mokie Porter, 301-585-4000

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Friday, July 8, 2011



WHAT – Washington DC VA Medical Center Compensated Work Therapy Program is sponsoring a free job fair for Veterans, active duty military personnel and their spouses. Interviews may be conducted on site. Some of the participating employers are FBI, USDA, Homeland Security, SOC Enterprises, Computer Science Corporation, CW Resources, America Works, US Secret Service, ABLE Forces, and the National Housing Corporation Learning Center.

WHEN – Monday, July 11, 2011; 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

WHERE – Washington DC VA Medical Center, Abraham Lincoln Auditorium, 4th Floor, 50 Irving Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20422

WHO – Veterans, military personnel and their spouses.

WHY – To link Veterans, military personnel and their spouses seeking employment with employers who have vacant positions.

The Compensated Work Therapy Program (CWT) is a Department of Veterans Affairs clinical program designed to prepare qualified Veterans for employment. The CWT Program is sponsoring this event as a community service effort and to provide direct support to Veterans, military personnel and their families in the DC metropolitan area in locating employment.

Parking at the DC VA Medical Center is limited. All Job Fair attendees are encouraged to use public transportation. Free shuttle service is available to and from Brook land/CUA, McPherson and the Columbia Heights Metro Stations. For more information on DC VA Medical Center shuttle service visit:

If you have questions, please contact the Office of Public Affairs, 202-745-4037. For directions to the Medical Center please visit the Medical Center website at

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Erick and Monica Barfield, both military veterans riding bicycles across the country for AMVETS and to raise awareness of the nation's homeless and disabled veterans, have embarked on a 4,500 mile journey to champion their cause.

U.S. Army veteran Monica and Coast Guard veteran Eric left their home state Florida on Feb. 15 and plan on arriving in San Diego in February 2012. They are traveling with their 5-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Lily. They have been supporting their trip through private donations. They said the purpose for their AMVETS ride is raising awareness of and donations for homeless and disabled veterans.

The two from Plant City, Fla., met while both were at an avionics seminar regarding Army Blackhawk and Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopters at Fort Campbell, Ky., Monica’s base. She specialized in aviation supply and served two tours in Iraq during five years in the Army. He responded with the Coast Guard after the World Trade Center attacks, and he was wounded in a drug raid between Cuba and south Florida.

According to the couple's official Biking Across America for Homeless and Disabled Veterans Facebook page, the couple plans to help educate others about the struggles veterans face when trying to receive the healthcare they need and deserve, take part in fundraising to help get some veterans "off the streets," and make donations to AMVETS, which supports their efforts.

Currently, the Barfields are heading toward Cheyenne, Wyo., and will stop at AMVETS Post 10.

The Barfields are Members at Large in Florida.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

VA Creates Women Veterans Call Center

I receive press releases every day announcing various initiatives and campaigns that are pertinent to veterans. Today, I learned about the Department of Veterans Affairs' major outreach effort targeting women veterans. I guess it caught my eye because I am a veteran myself (and a woman) and I understand how important it is to reach this small but rapidly growing segment of service members.

According to the release, the VA is interested in soliciting input on ways to enhance health care services VA provides to women veterans. In order to accomplish this goal, representatives at VA's Health Resource Center are placing calls to women veterans nationwide asking them to share their experiences with VA and suggest potential enhancements that will further VA's mission to provide to provide the best care possible.

Women Veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the Veteran population. Of the 22.7 million living Veterans, more than 1.8 million are women. They comprise nearly 8 percent of the total Veteran population and 6 percent of all Veterans who use VA health care services.

VA estimates by 2020 women Veterans will constitute 10 percent of the Veteran population and 9.5 percent of VA patients. The HRC, which started placing calls on June 1, is contacting women Veterans who have enrolled, but have not begun using VA services.

“Through this contact center, we are placing friendly, conversational calls to women Veterans,” said Patricia Hayes, chief consultant of the VA’s Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group. “We want these Veterans and their caregivers to talk candidly about why they are not using VA, whether they are aware of the gender-specific services we offer, and what additional services they would like to see VA offer.”

The HRC representatives making the calls are also informing women Veterans about the services VA offers and quickly connecting them with appropriate departments if they are interested in trying VA health care. Veterans who have complaints about VA are connected to a patient advocate who helps resolve issues.

The Women Veterans Health Care program has made significant changes in the last few years to enhance the health care offered to eligible women Veterans.
This progress includes:

Adopting key policies to improve access and enhance services for women Veterans;
Implementing comprehensive primary care for women Veterans;
Conducting cutting-edge research on the effects of military service on women’s lives;
Improving communication and outreach to women Veterans; and
Providing mental health, homelessness and other services designed to meet the unique needs of women Veterans

For more information about VA programs and services for women Veterans, please visit: and

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